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Without the environment, we have nothing! Alan Clist coordinates positive change for our awa.

Behind every great community group, is a great coordinator. Their role is to oversee,

organise and understand what the different parts of an organisation need to be doing and as such, they have their finger on the group’s pulse. They are doers and from what we can tell, don’t like the limelight much. So it is our pleasure to introduce to you the guy that keeps us informed and organised, Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira’s Group Coordinator, Alan Clist.

Alan brings with him 41 years of experience in the corporate world which began after graduating as an Electrical Engineer from Auckland University. He spent the first part of his career working as a Telecommunications Engineer for the New Zealand Post Office in Northland, which has come in handy to communicate effectively with Watercare’s engineers. After this role he transitioned into Information Technology (IT) leading teams and motivating people in leadership roles including IT Manager and General Manager for IT. This career eventually took its toll however:

“Towards the end I grew very disillusioned with the treadmill and stress of endless corporate growth with a backdrop of continual exploitation of our natural resources. In 2019 I bailed on this lifestyle and decided to use my skills to give back to nature.”

Switching the office for the outdoors, he became a Kauri Dieback ambassador, informing walkers about the disease and precautions to take in the Waitakere Ranges. When Covid hit, the job dried up, and he was able to take up a new opportunity as Group Coordinator at Rivercare Group, working to advocate for his local awa. As a result, Rivercare Group benefits from the steady hand gained from four decades of experience in the business world, with the massive highs and crushing lows entailed.

The lows have taught Alan the most, and have prepared him for his work in the nature space. “Continual success is fictional and real life comes with hard experiences that teach you more than the euphoric highs - once you get through them! When the realisation dawns as to the reality of our situation as humans in a finite world, it can be depressing. The problems are so big that, well, what can one person do? The answer is to get involved in being part of the answer, not part of the problem. If enough people start having that attitude, the world will and can change.”

He says that while it may be unrealistic to return Te Wai o Pareira to the state it was in prior to European colonisation, he takes comfort from the fact that when we help nature, nature responds and helps itself. “As our housing environment intensifies, natural places like the awa and its surrounding reserves and walkways will become increasingly important. For example, our project to restore Tawa Esplanade with our community will hopefully result in fish returning to spawn in its tributaries and a community that is connected to their local environment. Let’s dream big and make it happen!”

Asked what he enjoys about switching from a large corporation of 21,000 to a community group of 10, understandably Alan enjoys getting things done, and done quickly! He also mentions how energising it is to connect with his local community and other community groups, all of whom have been incredibly positive and supportive of Rivercare’s mahi. He makes a special mention of the privilege he has felt working alongside iwi to learn more about tikanga and mātauranga Māori.

Another revelation was the culture of support working with various agencies and charities. One example was getting our citizen science-led water testing off the ground to kickstart our inclusion on Auckland Council’s SafeSwim model. When the collaborative project was canned due to Covid budget cuts, various agencies supported the group to find a way forward. This concluded with us receiving funding from Foundation North with the result of our community having a way to reliably know if it’s safe to swim, fish and enjoy our awa from December 2021.

He says it’s also been refreshing to interact with Watercare, who have been open and supportive of our mahi and committed to working towards a deeper collaboration to see some positive results for Te Wai o Pareira.

So if you’re umming and ahhing about doing something for nature, Alan suggests starting small and doing something locally in your own community. “Focus on what you can change. Join us or one of the other local conservation groups for a few hours or as much as you can. We have been really encouraged by the people who have chosen to do this at our events. What we do today to help nature will have years, if not decades of payback.”

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